Educators update anti-bullying messages to protect Muslims

1457198072865MERIDEN, Conn. (AP) — In response to a surge in reports of anti-Muslim bullying — students being called terrorists, having their head scarves ripped off and facing bias even from teachers — schools are expanding on efforts deployed in the past to help protect gays, racial minorities and other marginalized groups.

Civil rights organizations and other advocates have been working more closely with schools since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, stirred a new backlash that led the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Education Department to urge vigilance on the bullying of Muslims.

While stressing that students have rights under the law, and that offenses should be reported, speakers at schools and mosques have also discussed how to create an inclusive culture, how Muslims are scapegoated for attacks and how non-Muslims can be allies to their peers.

“Muslim kids get bulled, gay kids get bullied because other kids are uncomfortable with them, and they show it,” said Bill Howe, a multicultural education specialist who spoke at an anti-bullying forum in December for children at Meriden’s Baitul Aman mosque. “That causes Muslim students to retreat, to be more isolated. They need to develop critical social skills so they can build relationships.”

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White House Battles Bullying of Asian and Muslim Americans

White House Battles Bullying of Asian and Muslim Americans
October 28, 2011 5:07pm | By Amy Zimmer, DNAinfo News Editor

President Barack Obama discussed the Occupy Wall Street protests. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

MANHATTAN — Obama administration officials will be meeting with hundreds of local parents, teachers, students and community leaders at a bullying prevention summit Saturday to address the safety of Asian American, Pacific Islander and Muslim American students.

These students are more likely to be targets of bullying than some of their counterparts, according to new data that U.S. Department of Education officials are expected to release at the event to be held at Hunter College on the Upper East Side.

Nearly one-third of all school-aged children are bullied each year, or about 13 million students, White House officials said.

“Post 9/11, bias-based bullying toward religious and immigrant communities has been a consistent issue, and it continues to be under reported,” Thomas Mariadason, an attorney at the Manhattan-based Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said in a statement.

Mariadason, a watchdog of anti-harassment policies across the nation, will join keynote speaker Assistant Attorney general Thomas Perez, New York City Comptroller John Liu, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and several others. The day-long summit will also include a panel with representatives from Facebook, MTV and Common Sense Media, who will discuss online bullying and how to stay safe on the Internet.

“We’ve seen the egregious effects bias-based harassment has on students when there is a failure to intervene, from the violence at South Philadelphia High School in 2009 to reports we received in years past from the former Lafayette High School in Brooklyn,” Mariadason said. “The problem persists, and it is a critical time for the White House to address these issues.”

Convened by the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in partnership with CUNY’s Asian American/Asian Research Institute and Hunter College, the event aims to raise awareness about harassment of Asian and Muslim Americans, encourage students, parents and advocates to report such incidents and discuss possible solutions, federal officials said.

The city’s teachers union recently unveiled a new anti-bullying hotline for kids (212-709-3222).

The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ Bullying Prevention Summit is on Saturday at CUNY Hunter College Main Cafeteria, 695 Park Ave., 9:30 a.m.

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